This past weekend, I was privileged to feel something I hadn’t felt since before the axe came down on my racing career over ten years ago. For the first time since 2007, the resulting muscle soreness in my legs wasn’t due to a nagging injury or my body protesting that I’d once again overdone a physical activity. The soreness which I awakened to on Sunday morning was from the 5k I ran on Saturday morning. It was a race finally completed in this new season of running without having to stop repeatedly to catch my breath, stretch or gulp down a cup of water.
With only minutes to spare, I’d arrived at the Momence Lion’s Club Gladiolus Festival race that morning. And, as I stepped from my car I was greeted with the makings of what promised to be a hot, muggy day. The weather was as I remembered it to be when I’d won the 10k race back in 1994. Come to think of it, we’d had the very same weather the first time I participated in it during my first summer of racing all the way back in 1981. I find it reassuring when some of the things we remember remain as they were over the years. This time, though, I would be running the shorter 5k race.
Though most of the runners participated in the longer, and perhaps more prestigious 10k just as I always had in years past, I was pleased as I crossed the finishing line. I was more pleased, in fact, than I recall feeling on completing most races in the old days. Even though I was winning many of my races back then, I used to find it difficult to celebrate the moment. I remember races when, even as I was crossing the finish line, I’d already been thinking of the next race and working on my strategy for running ever faster. Suffice it to say, I hope I can retain this new perspective and simply relish the fact I am able to run.
I might finally be getting the pacing thing down. For this 4th race of my running renaissance, I was determined to run the first mile conservatively. In this instance, though I felt I could go faster, I intentionally held back. So, when I heard the guy standing at the 1 mile mark call out 5:58, it came as a pleasant surprise. I’d just run my 2nd fastest mile in over ten years. And, I still felt pretty good. Inevitably, the heat and humidity started taking their toll as I rounded the construction cone placed in the middle of the road at the turnaround point of the 5k. I searched in vain for a marker which would indicate the 2 mile mark. I looked down at my watch on several occasions until coming to the conclusion that at some point in the previous minute or two I’d already entered into the 3rd mile. With 2/3 of the race now completed, I knew I could gut the rest out.
I crossed the finish line in 20:12. It is my PR in this newest rendition of running. And though the finishing time is approaching 4 minutes slower than those which occurred in my last season of running, I am pleased with the effort. Those races, I recognize, took place more than a decade ago. I need only to glance at my reflection to confirm that I am no longer that same runner. I am, instead, someone who’s rapidly approaching his 55th birthday. It was an excruciatingly long hiatus. So, yeah, this runner will take the muscle soreness and accept that finishing time.